First Sight

Vaguely isosceles and triangulating a level, gravelled area of the Japanesque garden are three planned shrubs beds; the top one will feature an Acer Trompenburg. Japanese hydrangeas will dominate the other two, either side some stone steps.

narrow fencing (to be painted black) with forsythia hedging

The bed on the left of the steps is a part-sun south facing border and already in place there is an edging hedge of miniature Forsythia ‘Mikador’, as well as a Hydrangea ‘Jogasaki’. Since it is the first part of the garden that is seen on entry (after an adjacent mixed Sarcococca boundary path edge), I shall refer to it as First Sight and drew up this remit for a third shrub

  • evergreen – to part fill winter gaps created by deciduous Japanese hydrangeas
  • medium size – to screen but not block the immediate garden view
  • fragrant -to complement an adjacent sarcococcas border
  • variegated – golden, to complement its boundary hedge of miniature Forsythias

Winter is the best time for considering evergreen plants and Daphne odora is one of the stand-outs for this time of year.

This, the ‘winter Daphne’, is also known as the Japanese Daphne, hence an obvious choice. Daphne odoras are evidently fragrant and some are variegated too, a desirable trait in Japan, and both D. odora “Mae-Jima” and “Marriani” tick the boxes:

Compact habit and attractive creamy-yellow edged green leaves. Profuse dark pink, strongly fragrant flowers


Growing to approximate 5 feet after several years, these seem to be ideal


Daphnes have a reputation for being slow growing, difficult and temperamental to grow and expensive. While their reputation is well deserved on all three counts that is not to say that they cannot be grown perfectly easily in gardens throughout the UK


By contrast Viburnums are easier, more reliable plants as well as generally being less expensive. They too are fragrant and many originate from S.E. Asia though mostly, China and/or Korea rather than Japan, other than Viburnum plicatum, the deciduous Japanese snowball bush.

The only evergreens however are V. cinnamomifolium, V. davidii, V. odoratissimum, and V. rhytidophyllum and all are large shrubs except for V. davidii which grows 3-4 feet:-

Flattened heads of tubular, white flowers in May, followed by metallic, turquoise-blue fruit (requires both sexes in proximity). Dark green foliage, forming a low, dome-like shape, is a visual ‘anchor’ for taller perennials and shrubs.


Although I had a preference for viburnums before doing the research, it is evident that most do not fit the remit. Thus one of the golden variegated D. odoras is now on the plant wishlist.

D. odora “Marriani” source

Since the planting is from scratch, instead of picking a plant at random from garden centres in a sort of magpie collection, I’m enjoying planning and learning as I go. Besides, it’s one way of passing these wet winter days with one eye on an early Spring bloom.

5 thoughts on “First Sight

  1. I love that image of your sheltering from the winter weather, pondering on the best possible planting. In the meantime, there’s nothing quite like the scent of Daphne on a bleak grey day. Happy New Year, Laura!

    1. and to you Tish – hope 2023 is a fruitful one on the allotment! And with so much time on my hands now, the researching is all that is keeping this gardener sane. Do you grow Daphne?

      1. I’ve not grown it, but I’m always v. pleased to come upon it on a dismal day. Nothing quite like its fragrance. And then all those hopeful tiny flowers.

  2. I like the name ‘First Sight’ and the way you are going about selecting plants for your new garden. I am almost tempted to rip everything out of mine and start again. Have you looked at variegated Hebes for your border? Evergreen, compact and winter colour though not scented. I wonder if scent is a priority if you already have the Sarcococca close by. I realise that they are not from Japan or Asia, if you are going to be a purist.

    1. Glad you like the name Jude – I can now call the other two beds, “Second Sight” and “Far Sight”! I have one Hebe in the potted cottage front garden – might add more there especially as there are some that can manage with less than full sun.

      I am almost a purist with the Japanesque, Jude – especially on this gravel part of the garden – the slope can be a touch more cosmopolitan, if fitting the ethos of design plans there i.e. structural plants and restrained colour hence will retry the castor oil plants.

      it might be worth looking to see if there is any part of your garden that could do with a complete rake up and make over – fun to start again as it were

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